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The Difference is in the Brine

Rosemary Roasted Pork Loin (also note the how well seasoned that carbon steel pan is now - if that isn't love...)

Why bother to brine a pork roast, a turkey, or a chicken?  Well, there are two reasons.  The first is that all three of these meats generally don’t contain a lot of intramuscular fat and therefore tend to dry out when you roast or grill them.  Brining helps the meat to retain its juices, even if it’s slightly overcooked.  The second reason is flavor.  A basic brine is made up of water, salt and sugar.  Soaking a roast, a bird, or even chops in this liquid allows the meat to become seasoned all the way through, not just on the outside.

Lately one of the things I like to keep in my larder is a pork loin roast.  A 1-1/2 to 2 lb. roast is the perfect size for my little household of two plus dog.  I brine it for about 2 hours, then sear it off, and roast it.  The whole process takes about 3 hours, largely unattended.  Properly cooled and left whole, the cooked roast with keep for about 3 days tightly wrapped in the fridge.   Then I just slice off pieces as I need to make grilled sandwiches or to have with eggs and toast.

Rosemary Roasted Pork Loin

INGREDIENTS for a 2 lb. pork loin roast:

1 quart (4 cups) water

1 Tbsp.  sugar

1 Tbsp.  table salt or fine sea salt

             or 1 Tbsp. plus 1-/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 sprig of fresh rosemary

salt and freshly ground black pepper

neutral cooking oil, such as canola or grapeseed

PROCEDURE:

1.  Prepare the brine by combining water with the salt, sugar and rosemary in a small saucepan.  Heat the mixture and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Remove the pan from the heat allow the brine to cool completely (it should be cold to the touch) before using.

2.  To brine the roast, simply put it in a non-reactive (i.e. plastic, glass, or stainless steel) bowl or container, cover it with the brine, and weigh it down with a plate so it stays completely submerged.  Instead of a container I like to use a ziploc freezer bag.  The roast fits perfectly inside a gallon size bag, and if you are able to squeeze out most of the air before you seal it, you will find you only need about 2 cups of brine to keep the roast completely submerged.  Refrigerate the roast in the brine for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

3. Remove the roast from the brine and discard the brine.  I prefer to tie the roast before cooking.  This will help the roast to keep a uniform shape and cook evenly.  The simplest method is to use a few lengths of twine and tie the roast in three places about 1-1/2 inches apart.  Tie it only tight enough so that it holds its shape.

There's more than one way to tie a roast. No need to get all fancy...

4.  To roast the loin preheat the oven to 350° F.  Meanwhile pat the roast dry with some paper towels and season the outside with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a 10″ ovenproof skillet, and when the oil is shimmering, brown the roast on three sides, and the ends.  Flip the roast onto the fourth side and pop it in the oven, skillet and all.  The fourth side will continue to brown in the oven.

5.  Roast to an internal temperature of 135°, about 30-45 minutes.  Then pull the roast from the oven and let it rest at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes.  The internal temperature will continue to rise a few degrees as it rests, and should reach 140°. It is also important to let the meat rest before serving so that the juices in the center of the meat redistribute to the outer parts which have dried out during cooking.

6.  To store the roast for later use, transfer the roast whole to a plate or small tray and let it cool completely in the fridge.  Once it is completely cooled all the way through, wrap it tightly in plastic, and keep it refrigerated.  Use within 3 days.

IDEAS:

Use thinly sliced pork loin in place of ham for your ham and cheese sandwiches.

Use thick sliced pork loin instead of Canadian bacon or ham for Eggs Benedict.

Try brining and roasting a boneless turkey breast instead of pork loin.  Omit the sugar from the brine and substitute thyme or sage in place of rosemary.  Brine for about 1 hour per pound.  Then roast to an internal temperature of 160° and let it rest so it reaches 165°.  Cool and store as you would the pork loin.

Make a big batch of brine and keep it in your fridge for whenever you need it.  After all, it’s only salt, sugar and water so it should keep for some time.

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